where did Bertie's money come from?

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where did Bertie's money come from?

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Abr 2, 2008, 4:02 pm

I was wondering, did Wodehouse ever explain where Bertie's money came from? He is quite well-off, but I can't remember if we were ever told why.

Abr 3, 2008, 5:31 pm

I can't remember ever reading, although since the other obvious omission is any information about his parents, I always assumed he had inherited money. The question is, was he raised by one of his aunts?

Abr 13, 2008, 2:18 pm


You may not have come across this web page which sounds authoritative. I had missed the fact that Bertie had a sister but no indication as to the source of the family money. It is mentioned that Uncle Willoughby supported Bertie for a while - presumably until he came of age and inherited his late father's cash.

I was also surprised to see that Bertie had a Blue in Rackets - a game of speed, energy and precision not obviously suited to the character we know and love.

Abr 13, 2008, 7:14 pm

Thanks for posting that site, abbottthomas- very interesting as I never knew Bertie had a sister. Never heard of rackets either. Sounds like raquetball or squash.

Abr 13, 2008, 7:45 pm

Rackets is a very English and upper-crust game with some similarities to squash but played on a much bigger court with stouter racquets and a hard ball. There are courts at a dozen or so of the posher public schools as well as Oxford and Cambridge, of course. I believe the Queen's Club in London also has courts. I don't know if it is played in any other country (but maybe at Harvard or Yale). Only a small minority of pupils at the schools ever play the game and opportunities for a match must, presumably, remain restricted, rather like Real Tennis.

Editado: Abr 13, 2008, 8:47 pm

> 5 List of rackets courts on Wikipedia.

Abr 14, 2008, 2:26 am

>3 abbottthomas: The sister is mentioned in "Bertie changes his mind" - she lives in India and has three little girls.

Editado: Abr 14, 2008, 8:03 am

Thinking about it a little more: the original question is an interesting one, simply because it doesn't actually play any role in the stories. Obviously, the reason it doesn't is that Wodehouse never needed it: for the stories to work, Bertie simply has to be financially independent, but not so rich that he could solve problems by giving his friends handouts of cash.

Normally, if you have money, it comes from somewhere, and that somewhere has an effect on how you live your life. If Bertie were a real person, and his money came from land, he would have an estate somewhere with duties and responsibilities attached; if he inherited from a father or uncle in business, there would be some expectation that he should go into the business himself, and so on. I suppose one could postulate an elder brother who has inherited the land, leaving Bertie with a comfortable annuity (rather like Lord Peter Wimsey's situation), but then why is he never mentioned? Why is Bertie not at least an "Hon."? For a younger son to be able to live in style without any thought of earning a living in the 20s and 30s, the family would have to be very rich indeed.

My theory is based on Bertie's middle name, Wilberforce - I think he must have had a grandfather who made his fortune in the slave trade :-)

(So the next poster can bring in Mansfield Park and Edward Said...)

Editado: Abr 14, 2008, 6:58 pm

Wilberforce was a horse:
‘Wilberforce,’ she [Aunt Dahlia] murmured, as far as a woman of her outstanding lung power could murmur. ‘Did I ever tell you how you got that label? It was your father's doing. The day before you were lugged to the font looking like a minor actor playing a bit part in a gangster file he won a packet on an outsider in the Grand National called that, and he insisted on you carrying on the name. Tough on you, but we all have our cross to bear. Your Uncle Tom's second name is Portarlington, and I came within an ace of being christened Phyllis.’
-- Much Obliged, Jeeves

Abr 14, 2008, 11:48 am

Now that I think of it, it is true that Bertie had enough money for a nice London flat, a genius gentlemen's gentleman (Jeeves wouldn't have worked cheaply) and all the frivolities he wanted. Yet, he was annoyed anytime one of his friends put the touch on him for a small amount. Pinching pennies, or just the aggravation of the type of friends he had to deal with?

Abr 14, 2008, 2:34 pm

#9 ... on which Bertie's father had some money when it won the Grand National. That he was so impressed that he named his infant son after the animal does suggest that he generally wasn't too flush with the green and folding stuff.

I've just gone back to Wikipedia and it says there that Bertie depended on his Uncle Willoughby for handouts until the latter died, leaving him a fortune.
(The theme of hard-up young men waiting for the next bung from a rich uncle does recur from time to time.)

I suppose, Thorold, that a substantial holding in Government Stock could provide Bertie with an adequate income for his purposes and not required any more effort from him than an occasional glass of Madeira with his broker. It would also explain why he seemed not to have easy access to a large amount of liquid capital.

Your point about Bertie's 'Hon.-lessness' is interesting: I have always seen him as a minor entry in Burke's Peerage, or at least Kelly's Directory. His aunt's marry into the House of Lords with apparent ease. However, for him to be the Honorable Bertram Wooster, his father would have to be a viscount or baron and, assuming that Bertie didn't have an elder brother (who would have been hard for Bertie to decently ignore), he would have succeeded to his father's title. His pater might have been a younger son of a minor peer, thus entitled to use the courtesy title - The Hon' - but having no handle to pass on to his offspring.

Alas, we shall never know. ;-)

Editado: Abr 14, 2008, 4:28 pm

His aunt's marry into the House of Lords with apparent ease.

Do they? I haven't read the whole canon, but as far as I could tell Mr. Wooster, Mrs. Gregson, and Mrs. Travers were all three commoners (and married to such). Are there other aunts, or other husbands of aunts, I'm not remembering?

Editado: Abr 14, 2008, 5:38 pm

>9 MMcM:,11

Yes, of course, I'd forgotten the horse!

Barry Phelps makes the point that there are similarities between Bertie's family background (as far as we know anything about it) and Wodehouse's -- ancestors who fought at Agincourt; no title, but other branches of the family had come into peerages in the 18th and 19th century.

The difference being that Wodehouse didn't inherit any money and had to work for his living, something for which we can only be grateful!

Abr 16, 2008, 11:55 am

>12 nperrin: Sorry, nperrin, fingers running without brain engaged! Travers and Gregson indeed commoners even though landed and affluent. I have a little excuse in that Agatha married the Earl of Worplesdon after Gregson's death.

Editado: Maio 9, 2008, 12:57 pm

Bertie's Uncle George is Lord Yaxley.

In 'Indian Summer of an Uncle' (found in Very Good, Jeeves) Lord Yaxley meets again the barmaid he nearly eloped with in his youth, back when he was still plain George Wooster. His family didn't like it and paid the barmaid to go away, and he came into the title soon after. Bertie's father must therefore have been a younger son.

Maio 9, 2008, 4:38 pm

Thanks, Caty. Q.E.D.!

Jan 31, 2010, 8:05 pm

I have just started The Luck of the Bodkins. Plum does tell us quite precisely how Monty was able to explain to his fiancee's father that he didn't earn his living because a "recent aunt" had left him three hundred thousand quid in gilts.

In 1935 that bequest would stack up to £11 million in today's money. I don't know what the coupon on gilts was in the thirties, but assuming that Monty's old aunt was a patriotic soul, the securities may have been the irredeemable War Loan which paid a fixed interest of 3.5%. That would give him an income upwards of £300k p.a. - not up to Premiership footballers' or Bloody Bankers' standards, but comfy.

Useful things, issue-less aunts and uncles, even at more modest levels. I enjoyed the second paragraph of this recent obituary:

Editado: Fev 27, 2011, 9:28 pm

Indeed Bertie's parents were not living during the narration. I recall from one of the books that Bertie had indicated that his father had money -- "pots of it." There was also, I believe, indications of an inheritance from Bertie's Uncle George, aka Lord Yaxley. Prior to coming of age to the inheritance (not clear whether from father or Uncle George), Bertie's Uncle Willoughby was the initial trustee of the inherited wealth and controlled the purse strings.

Fev 28, 2011, 7:15 am

>9 MMcM:,15

Probably just a coincidence, but the future Lady Yaxley was Mrs Wilberforce at the time of "Indian summer of an uncle". Presumably her previous husband was a Mr Wilberforce, unless the "Mrs" was a courtesy title.

Fev 28, 2011, 11:05 am

The Woosters give every indication of being 'old money', which means they've owned vast tracts of largely agricultural land for centuries.

The luckier members of this already monied class made an even bigger pile of cash in the Industrial Revolution if it turned out coal could be mined on their land.

The inbreeding and lack of wordly knowledge popularly associated with this class is one of the major sources of Wodehousian humour, particularly when much of their wealth dissipated after World War 1.

Fev 28, 2011, 12:57 pm

Ian's probably right: if the money had recently come from anything other than land we'd almost certainly have been told about it.

Maudie knew Uncle George as George Wooster in her barmaid days, but that doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't an Hon. He "came into the title", which suggests that he inherited it from a father or uncle rather than being made a peer by Lloyd George - which is anyway unlikely, as there's no hint of him being a politician or businessman. But he lives in bachelor digs in London when he's not taking the cure somewhere, so no sign of rolling acres there.

Uncle Willoughby doesn't have a surname in "Jeeves takes charge", but he does have an estate in Shropshire and is "Sir Willoughby", so he's probably a baronet. That suggests that he's more likely to be a brother-in-law to Uncle George than a brother. Bertie apparently stands to inherit money from him, but there's no mention of him inheriting Easeby, which tends to confirm that.

(Incidentally, I just noticed that "Jeeves takes charge" is the one place where we're indirectly told Bertie's age: he was 15 when Uncle Willoughby chased him with a riding crop, and the story takes place nine years later, so he must have been 24 when Jeeves took office.)

I'm not sure if Ring for Jeeves is a reliable source, but we're told there that Bertie, "though his finances are still quite sound", is attending "an institution designed to teach the aristocracy to fend for itself". So Bertie is implicitly a member of the aristocracy. In England it's rare to use that term of someone who isn't very closely related to a titled person.

Jan 2, 2014, 6:53 pm

Bertie is actually very rich indeed, having inherited a ''Vast fortune'' from an uncle at some undisclosed point, fairly early on, in the stories. The exact inheritance is not revealed but it is noted to be "Vast". I however cannot currently recall the name of the particular uncle, athough I think that It may have been uncle Willoughby. The reason that Bertie does not solve his problems by throwing money about is that although he is generally rather wooly headed, he is actually usually rather sensible, bordering on stingy, where money is concerned. However it is noted that he does occasionally spend large amount of money on various extravagancies, such as holidays and questionable fashion. But this is of little financial consequence to Bertie for, as I have noted previously, after inheriting from his uncle Bertie is a very rich young man indeed.